Four killed in police firing in Assam, toll mounts to 20 (Lead)

October 5th, 2008 - 5:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Oct 5 (IANS) Four people were killed Sunday when the police opened fire at mobs of angry villagers in three different locations in Assam, taking the death toll in three days of clashes to 20, officials said.A government spokesman said the police and paramilitary troopers opened fire on three different locations to disperse armed mobs trying to set ablaze villages of a rival community in the northern district of Udalguri, about 120 km from Assam’s main city of Guwahati.

“At least four people were killed when the police opened fire on armed miscreants trying to set ablaze a village,” said a senior police official, requesting anonymity.

All the victims belonged to the minority Muslim community.

Violence erupted after village officials belonging to the tribal Bodo group were attacked by Muslims Friday, the police said.

Other groups in Assam state joined the clashes, with mobs armed with machetes, spears and illegal guns targeting rival communities.

Troops were instructed to shoot at sight in two districts of the state where a curfew has been imposed, police said.

“The toll as of now is 20 killed and about 70 wounded, some critically. About 250 houses have been torched,” the official said.

About 10,000 people have fled their homes and are living in state-run relief centres. Police and locals blamed militants of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), a tribal rebel group currently on a ceasefire with New Delhi, of attacking and torching villages belonging to the Muslim community.

“We have also got such reports of the NDFB instigating the violence and if such reports are found to be true then we shall have no options other than calling off the ceasefire,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told journalists Sunday.

Community leaders and opposition political parties blamed the state government for failing to control the violence.

“Despite the government issuing curfew and shoot-on-sight orders in force, violence is continuing and there are complaints that there are no security forces present in several vulnerable areas,” former Assam chief minister and leader of the Asom Gana Parishad-Progressive, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, said after visiting the violence-hit district.

In August, the area witnessed similar clashes between two communities in which about 10 people were killed and several injured.

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